Today's newspapers carry a photograph of Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz offering a bouquet of flowers to India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
It wasn't just another meeting between the Indian PM and the CEO of a multinational. Like several other CEOs of MNC IT companies, Bartz offered help to India for its US$4 billion Unique Identification (UID) program.
Bartz also met Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). The UID program will provide a unique identification number to the country's 1.1 billion citizens.
Yahoo, according to Bartz, has expertise in handling huge amount of data--something that the UID project is bound to involve.
"Yahoo and other Internet companies such as Amazon and Google, have built massive Internet applications that have millions of users... That experience is relevant to us. When one looks at a project the scale of UID, it is good to share such experiences," she said during a press meet.
Yesterday, networking equipment company Cisco Systems also evinced interest in the project. "We are in talks with Mr Nilekani on how to help and the kind of role Cisco can play," the company's CTO Padmasree Warrior told the local media, on the sidelines of the BangaloreIT.biz conference.
Earlier this year, Bill Gates, Microsoft's co-founder, had said his company is interested to partner India in the UID project. Gates had also met Nilekani during his visit to India in July.
Besides global biggies like Microsoft and Cisco, Indian IT firms like TCS, Infosys, Wipro and plenty others, are hopeful that the UID project will galvanize the domestic software market, what with the recession in the developed world taking its toll on India's software exports and outsourcing activities.
The UID project will require a full technology backbone, massive computing power, database, storage and biometrics. According to Nilekani, the UIDAI "needs every one, every technology... It needs to look at their offerings. The UID project is large and complex, and we have to have an open mind so that we can choose the best possible solutions."
The UIDAI is expected to start issuing the identification numbers in the next 12 to 18 months, and expects to cover at least 600 million residents within five and half years. But, the moot question is--won't too many players clamoring for a piece of the UID pie complicate matters for the UID project in general, and for UIDAI in particular? Isn't it difficult to keep everyone happy? Hasn't Nilekani heard the adage--too many chefs spoil the broth?